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Kurdish politicians arrested in Turkey over 'links' to 2014 unrest

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Ayhan Bilgen, the mayor of Kars, was taken away in a police van on Friday morning
Ayhan Bilgen, the mayor of Kars, was taken away in a police van on Friday morning   -   Copyright  Anadolu Agency
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Over a dozen Kurdish politicians have been arrested in Turkey as part of an investigation into a series of deadly riots that swept the country in 2014.

Ayhan Bilgen, the mayor of the northeastern city of Kars, was among those taken into custody in simultaneous police raids across seven cities early on Friday morning.

Prominent members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were also held.

Authorities said 82 warrants had been issued in total, including for members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and that 19 people had been detained so far.

HDP co-leader Mithat Sancar said it was "a brazen revenge operation" against his party by the Turkish government. It was not immediately clear why it had taken six years for prosecutors to take action.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said it was “not the first time” such events had taken place in Turkey.

Ana Pisonero told Euronews: "The EU has already expressed its concerns on anti-terror laws and implementations.

"About these new developments, it will be better that we wait for a more formal and high-level reaction in the EU."

The HDP said it was an attempt by Turkey's governing AK Party-MHP bloc to "disperse the opposition as it loses [power]"

Thirty-seven people died during protests and clashes in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities in early October 2014 after the Syrian border town of Kobani was captured by the Islamic State group.

Thousands of Kurds demonstrated against the Turkish government at the time, accusing it of neglect following its refusal to prevent the town from falling to IS militants.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s office said nearly 200 schools had been set alight and hundreds of other buildings, homes and vehicles looted during the clashes.

It said they began following a protest call by the PKK, which is listed by the European Union, the United States, and Turkey as a terrorist organisation.

But members and ex-lawmakers from the HDP, the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament, were also detained in connection to the riots on Friday morning.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of maintaining links with the PKK.

The HDP’s jailed former leaders Selahattin Demirtaş ve Figen Yüksekdağ have already been charged over the riots.